Animals in Fiction by Peni Jo Renner: Pt 2 with Audio/Podcast42

Title of blog post over photo of author Peni Jo Renner.
Historical novelist Peni Jo Renner.

Animals in Fiction by Peni Jo Renner: Part 2 of 2 Happiness Between Tails

#Authors #Books #Novels #Writing #Fiction #Animals How do animals figure into your reading or writing? Historical novelist Peni Jo Renner tells us how she uses them in her books. Share your thoughts, experiences, and questions by recording them on my Anchor by Spotify page — or comment at HappinessBetweenTails.com — or email me. Like what you hear? Buy me a coffee. Time Stamps (where segments begin): HBT introduction Intro to today’s topic and guest 1:05 Animals in Fiction by Peni Jo Renner: Part 2 of 2 My question for you HBT outro Links used for the HBT blog post of this episode: Original blog post for this episode at Happiness Between Tails. About my own novels in progress. Peni Jo Renner’s blog. Photos available at the HBT post for this show: Peni Jo Renner — This episode is sponsored by · Anchor: The easiest way to make a podcast. https://anchor.fm/app — Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/depe9/message Support this podcast: https://anchor.fm/depe9/support

Click H-E-R-E for my podcast page at AnchorFM. This week’s show is the audio version of the blog post below.

At the Happiness Between Tails podcast page, you’ll also find links to subscribe, hear, and share it via most any platform, from Spotify and Apple Podcasts, to Google Podcasts and Pocket Casts, along with RadioPublic and Castbox and Stitcher and more, plus an RSS feed. Check out the full list of 50+ places

If you’re planning to be a soon-to-be self-published novelist like I am, what’s your game plan? Mine is first to gather a following of folks who enjoy my general sensibility and style. Everyone can get an idea of both through Happiness Between Tails and the other social media I use. That way (fingers crossed) there will be some people interested in reading my books when they finally debut.

How do you find out about novels, purchase them, and in what format?

Peni Jo Renner, who blogs from in Maryland, is a three-time self-published historical novelist — plus she’s a blogger. She’s featured me on it plus she’s looking for people to review books there).

Her three books are available by clicking on their titles. The 3-part series begins with multi-award-winning Puritan Witch; The Redemption of Rebecca Eames, followed by Letters to Kezia and Raid on Cochecho. All are available for purchase online.

Here she discusses the value of animals in fiction…

The Importance of Furry and/or Feathered Characters by Peni Jo Renner (Part 1 with her here)

I spent my childhood pounding out corny stories on a plastic manual typewriter that printed only in caps. Admittedly, my plots were shallow set in idyllic valleys where the protagonist’s biggest challenge was locating a runaway Palomino mare named Nugget.

Accompanied by a bloodhound named Trapper.

And a pet raven named Edgar (and no, I’d never even heard of Edgar Allen Poe yet!).

Fast-forward about 40 years, and after putting aside fiction writing for nearly a quarter of a century, the writing bug bit me again and I realized my dream of writing (and getting published!) when I wrote Puritan Witch; The Redemption of Rebecca Eames. This multi-award-winning novel was quickly followed by its sequel, Letters to Kezia.  A third novel, Raid on Cochecho, completed the trilogy and I had accomplished my task of writing historical fiction.

My novels are peopled by my own Colonial ancestors, and it was really fun researching life in the 17th century. During my research, I was reminded that although styles may change and technology may advance, humans retain their proclivities throughout the centuries. 

As do non-humans.

Some of the most fun characters to bring to life are the four-legged ones. Riff, the big, loyal dog in Puritan Witch, continues his role as a devoted companion in Letters to Kezia. In the opening scene of Raid on Cochecho, the purity and innocence of childhood are embodied in a playful white kitten simply called Kitty. 

A human-only cast of characters, with their human foibles such as hate, greed, and selfishness, in this author’s opinion, needs a little respite with the sprinkling of a few animal companions here and there. After all, they can be the most fun to write!

How do you find out about novels, purchase them, and in what format?

Self-Publishing by Peni Jo Renner Pt 1 + Podcast 41 Version

Self-Published Historical Novelist Peni Jo Renner: Part 1 of 2 Happiness Between Tails

#Authors #Books #Novels #Writing #Fiction Do you want to write a book? Historical novelist Peni Jo Renner tells us how she published several. Share your thoughts, experiences, and questions by recording them on my Anchor by Spotify page — or comment at HappinessBetweenTails.com — or email me. Like what you hear? Buy me a coffee. Time Stamps (where segments begin): HBT introduction Intro to today’s topic and guest 1:05 Self-Published Historical Novelist Peni Jo Renner: Part 1 of 2 My question for you HBT outro Links used for the HBT blog post of this episode: Original blog post for this episode at Happiness Between Tails. About my own novels in progress. Peni Jo Renner’s blog. Photos available at the HBT post for this show: Peni Jo Renner Her books. 3CTl0Fn7PgHC4ITynM7O — This episode is sponsored by · Anchor: The easiest way to make a podcast. https://anchor.fm/app — Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/depe9/message Support this podcast: https://anchor.fm/depe9/support

Click H-E-R-E for my podcast page at AnchorFM. This week’s show is the audio version of the blog post below.

At the Happiness Between Tails podcast page, you’ll also find links to subscribe, hear, and share it via most any platform, from Spotify and Apple Podcasts, to Google Podcasts and Pocket Casts, along with RadioPublic and Castbox and Stitcher and more, plus an RSS feed. Check out the full list of 50+ places

Title of blog post over photo of historical novelist Peni Jo Renner.
Historical novelist Peni Jo Renner.

Many who visit here are soon-to-be self-published novelists (I’m writing novels too). Fortunately for us, Peni Jo Renner (who blogs from Maryland and has generously featured me on it plus she’s looking for people to review books there) has three self-published historical novels worth of experience to share with us…

Interview: Self-Publishing with Historical Novelist Peni Jo Renner Part 1 (Part 2 here)

 

da-AL: What advice can you give to writers who want to self-publish? And who’d like to get their books into public libraries?

Peni Jo Renner: Advice? Well, in 2012, I hadn’t written in like 25 years, and I felt I needed a refresher, so I took a class at our local community college. A fellow student told me that she had published HER book with iUniverse, so I went with them. But due to the measly 20% royalties iUniverse offered, I looked into other self-publishing companies and settled on Lulu with its 80% royalty rate. LuLu took care of all the copyrights and stuff. Self-publishing with companies like this can be expensive, so if money is an issue,  Amazon’s Createspace is free. 

I’m not big on self-promotion. I didn’t write my trilogy to make money, more to fulfill a lifelong dream. However,  I do ask new Facebook friends to “Like” my author page, and I participate in #SharingIsCaring on Facebook. #SharingIsCaring is this campaign on Facebook (and I suppose Twitter and Instagram) that authors list their FB author pages on other authors’ pages. Everyone Likes everyone else’s pages. Usually, the campaigns begin on Sundays.

In the past, I have participated in local book-signing events, but they are few and far between. However, I like to keep a supply of “The Puritan Chronicles” bookmarks, and I’ll ask people, “Do you enjoy reading historical fiction?” If they reply in the affirmative, I give them a bookmark. 

As to libraries; I know my trilogy is at my local library, but that may be due to the fact I used to work there! However, a cousin in Texas did show me a photo of my book, “Puritan Witch,” that she found at HER library!

My books are POD (Print on Demand), so the best way to purchase them is online. I wrote Puritan Witch; The Redemption of Rebecca Eames. This multi-award-winning novel was quickly followed by its sequel, Letters to Kezia.  A third novel, Raid on Cochecho, completed the trilogy and I had accomplished my task of writing historical fiction.

Here’s the bookmark that historical novelist Peni Jo Renner hands out.

Dear Happiness Between Tails friends: Check back soon for when Peni Jo lends us a peek into her writing process!

My fave historical novel is Isabel Allende’s House of Spirits — what’s yours?…

Abortion: P. Lazos + Privilege + Pod40: Blog Tips + Loan Words

Blog post title over photo of a woman holding a sign that reads, "Mandatory Vasectomies: Life Begins at Ejaculation."

27 Blog Tips + Borrowed Words by da-AL Happiness Between Tails

#Blogging #Writing #SocialMedia #WordPress #Marketing #BorrowedWords #Covid #Hair What tips do you know about blogging? Tips for blogging success and you may know more languages than you think. Here I share some that I’ve learned, along with some word fun. Share your thoughts, experiences, and questions by recording them on my Anchor by Spotify page — or comment at HappinessBetweenTails.com — or email me. Like what you hear? Buy me a coffee. Time Stamps (where segments begin): HBT introduction Intro to today’s topic and guest 1:05 27 Blog Tips + Borrowed Words by da-AL My questions for you HBT outro Links used for the HBT blog post of this episode: Original blog post for this episode at Happiness Between Tails. About my own novels in progress. My Facebook page. Video of Wayne Newton singing Schadenfreude, Darling, Schadenfreude" in 1963. The Hill post: "Hurricane Laura topples Confederate monument town had voted to keep". Grammarly Elle and Company Design's list of image dimensiions for posts. Canva My HBT post for still using WordPress Classic. Photos available at the HBT post for this show: One of me and one of a friend sporting our Covid-induced mustaches. — This episode is sponsored by · Anchor: The easiest way to make a podcast. https://anchor.fm/app — Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/depe9/message Support this podcast: https://anchor.fm/depe9/support

Click H-E-R-E for my podcast page at AnchorFM. This week’s show is the audio version of 27 Blog Tips + Borrowed Words by da-AL.

At the Happiness Between Tails podcast page, you’ll also find links to subscribe, hear, and share it via most any platform, from Spotify and Apple Podcasts, to Google Podcasts and Pocket Casts, along with RadioPublic and Castbox and Stitcher and more, plus an RSS feed. Check out the full list of 50+ places.

While fooling around — erhem, doing research — for my novels, I wandered across findings that conclude many well-off white guys want equality and equity for all. The problem is, since they don’t see it regarding them, their time is all full up with making and enjoying their inherent privileges.

“Humans are rational; we rationalize whatever we want,” or something to that effect, is how noted historian Howard Zinn summed it up.

What sound sleep such people must enjoy! No sweating over transgressions. No tossing over un-involvement with non-blood relatives, people different from them, or who don’t live right next door and aren’t knocking.

To further rile me the other day, when the subject of abortion came up within a group, someone asked whether others cared. To them, it was understandable that anyone who’s had all their kids, better still if they bore only sons and they were post-menopausal, not concern themselves.

Make no mistake, I don’t pretend to be a heroine who devotes every waking moment to bettering the world — but how do people justify take, take, taking, and never lifting a finger?

A breath of fresh air, blogger/novelist/environmental lawyer Pam Lazos is not a “don’t even try” sort. Visit her blog for info on her eco thriller, novellas, beekeeping, and daily laughter practice. Here she describes how, for her, abortion rights are personal…

Evolve or Revolve by Pam Lazos

Let me start by saying this is not my fight in the sense that I, personally, have something at stake.  I am past child-bearing years so the overturning of Roe v. Wade and all the restrictions on a woman’s reproductive system that come with it will not effect me, but if you are like me, let’s not make the mistake of thinking this mess is not going to impact our lives because failure to fight such moral turpitude is complacent, and complacency is how the world goes dark.  If history has taught us anything, complacent people get kicked to the curb because they don’t think the world is coming for them until it’s too late.  Just ask any one of the 6.6 million people living in refugee camps.  

Barring divine intervention — like Zechariah getting the nod from Archangel Gabriel about his elderly wife, Elizabeth, and her pregnancy with John the Baptist — that ship has sailed for me, but not for my daughters, and for them, and every other woman I love, I can never stop fighting until, and this is the tricky part, we EVOLVE into the amazing race of humans we were destined to be, not this crazy, tribal, hunkered-down caricature version of ourselves we have become.  

Imagine living in Texas right now, having a miscarriage, and being too afraid to tell anyone because you think they might arrest you and send you to jail, leaving the kids you have at home to grow up motherless.  Under the Texas abortion ban laws, you experience one of the most crushing moments of your life and rather than being able to look to your friends and community for support in dealing with such an unmooring personal tragedy, you are forced to hide your pain or risk the tragedy becoming public and you being incarcerated.  Don’t think this is just conjecture.  As Brian Stevenson chronicled in Just Mercy, Marsha Colbey spent five years in prison after the state of Alabama determined she was liable for her stillborn child’s death.  With that in mind, the overturning of Roe v. Wade feels like a witch trial where the rules are rigged from the start (ever watch Monty Python’s idea of the “scientific method”?).   

I had two miscarriages as a married woman after trying for years to have a baby.  If I had those miscarriages today, living in Texas, I may have ended up in jail.  So I ask all the whack-a-mole legislators in all the states that wrote such disgusting, anti-woman, anti-family, anti-society laws, why do you hate women, and why is your most fervent desire to see us fail?  Why do you want to see us busted, broke, and broken, without choice, but for those you make for us; pathless, but for those you set our feet upon; and penniless, but for those few coins you’ll throw our way for household items (and then complain because too much money is being spent on household items).  Are we destined to go back to the early 20th century, or will this time around be more insidiously like The Handmaid’s Tale?  Another thing:  once you’re done legislating what we can and can’t do with our bodies, do you think any one of us will want to have anything to do with any one of you?

Photo of Pam Lazos, blogger/author/activist/environmental lawyer.
Photo of Pam Lazos, blogger/author/activist/environmental lawyer.

Why is it only the men who get to exercise their free will?  How about all you chivalrous dudes who seem to think women need champions (we do, but not in the way you think); protectors (we do, but not in the way you think); and role models (we do, but boy, are there too few of those around); how about you take the hit on this?  If life starts at conception and you are so hell-bent on saving every last zygote — it takes until approximately the 11th week of pregnancy to become a fetus — let’s solve the problem by assuring those little eggs do not get fertilized until everyone is in agreement about having a live baby.  You can get a fully reversible vasectomy while we’ll enjoy a brief respite from our birth control dilemma that is never 100% effective — another bonus provided by vasectomies!

You squeamish?  Try walking a hot minute in our shoes.  Do you think anyone who has actually had to get an abortion wants it?  No. Nadie.  I’d wager in 99% of cases, a woman would have preferred avoiding it altogether (using 99% to account for statistical anomalies).  Further, it’s inconceivable to me that there is not one, but two potential sexual predators sitting on the Supreme Court right now, and until Biden was elected president, we had one in the White House, too. Imagine our joy!  And while the MINORITY of ultra conservatives are all high-fiving each other over Alito’s successful, strident, downright diabolical ruling, God is shedding ginormous tears at how satanic you all look to him right now.  The Supreme Court has decided to shove conservatism and Christianity down America’s throat while not one thing they’ve done in the last month looks like anything Jesus would do.  Paid parental leave?  Nah.  Post-natal and educational services for the child?  Fogetaboutit.  Worker training for the mother.  What are you nuts? 

The most vexing thing to me:  why, when we are on the precipice of a sixth mass extinction, are we bringing more babies into the world?  You would think tapping the brakes on overpopulation is a good thing, possibly buying us a few more decades until we sort this climate change mess out — something we’ve only recently decided to take seriously.  While you were busy thinking about how to unravel 50 years of stare decisis, Supreme Court, Mother Nature has been busy plotting her revenge and no amount of judicial reasoning or false piety will save you when the real apocalypse arrives so if you were thinking you could hide behind the robes, think again.

I don’t want to be the last generation on a dying planet, I want to be the first generation on an enlightened one.  How I long for this fight to be over, yet, I think it’s barely started.  So many of my perceived longings are because I think, “when I have xx, I will be happy,” when the truth is, I don’t even know if I want xx anymore, or if I even ever wanted it, I just want to be happy.  Most others want the same, but no one can be happy if everyone else is telling them what to do with their bodies — NO ONE — not even the ones doing the telling.  In order to be happy, we must go directly to the source of light.  Reflections of someone else’s light don’t count, and legislation which curtails a woman’s light, by curtailing her right, is the worst kind of reflection because it reflects someone else views onto us, leaving our own somewhere around our feet, or shoved into a closet with the stuff we don’t want anymore but don’t have the heart to throw away.

It’s the 4th of July, a holiday to celebrate independence, but in America today, independence is now only afforded to the the pale, male, stale variety who mostly write the laws.  To be fair, I know plenty of men who are not of this variety, and to them I say, THANK YOU.  We women need you in this fight and it is the one small ray of light that has sprung from all this chaos:  women and their men are coming together in droves to SUPPORT ONE ANOTHER, something that doesn’t happen too often in America these days.

There are a few things too important to leave to the states:  the environment, civil rights, education, and a woman’s reproductive rights, to name a few, and we all — at least the ones of us who are still thinking clearly — need to get in there and make sure we keep those rights.

Today I feel worse about our country than I have ever felt in my adult life. I don’t know how we get back to center where most of us thrive other than for women of all walks and stripes to get out there and not just vote, but run, RUN, for local, state and federal legislative and executive positions, heck, you can run for dog catcher if it’s going to make all our lives better.  We need our voices to be heard and the time has passed to let the men do it for us.  It’s not going to be easy, and it will take heart and strength and courage, but we can do it — together.  

Remember:  no man has ever experienced the pain of childbirth so they have no idea what we are capable of withstanding.  And for all those men who think women should be relegated to the back of the bus, just wait until we find our voices — the concussive effect will be staggering.  If we stand together, we can not only find our way back to the reflection of our own pure light, we can be unstoppable.

Time to show them, Ladies.

Trick question: Do abortion rights involve you?

Oldest Blogger + Aithal’s Survival + Pod39: Vet Trip by B Christopher

This post's title over Image of Morrie Markoff, then 99, and his wife, Betty, then 97, at their home in 2013. Photo by Gary Friedman for the Los Angeles Times.

Critter Vids + A Vet Trip by Brendan Christopher Happiness Between Tails

#Animals #Cats #Writing #Vets Are you wild for animals? Brendan Christoper, an animal educator and blogger out of Derbyshire, United Kingdom tells the tale of taking his cat to the vet. Share your thoughts, experiences, and questions by recording them on my Anchor by Spotify page — or comment at HappinessBetweenTails.com — or email me. Like what you hear? Buy me a coffee. Time Stamps (where segments begin): HBT introduction Intro to today’s topic and guest 1:05 A Vet Trip by Brendan Christopher My question for you HBT outro Links used for the HBT blog post of this episode: Original blog post for this episode at Happiness Between Tails. About my own novels in progress. include guest’s Photos available at the HBT post for this show: Brendan and a couple of his pets. — This episode is sponsored by · Anchor: The easiest way to make a podcast. https://anchor.fm/app — Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/depe9/message Support this podcast: https://anchor.fm/depe9/support

Click H-E-R-E for my podcast page at AnchorFM. This week’s show is the audio version of Critter Vids + A Vet Trip by Brendan Christopher.

At the Happiness Between Tails podcast page, you’ll also find links to subscribe, hear, and share it via most any platform, from Spotify and Apple Podcasts, to Google Podcasts and Pocket Casts, along with RadioPublic and Castbox and Stitcher and more, plus an RSS feed. Check out the full list of 50+ places.

“When you reach the age of 100, suddenly, even if you did nothing notable, you are a celebrity. Friends, even longtime ones, neighbors and strangers look at you differently. You see and feel it. When perfect strangers find out, they shake your hand, as if, by osmosis, you can transfer the secrets of long life to them.” Quote from Keep Breathing: Recollections from a 103-year-old, by Morrie Markoff (born January 1914), published five years ago.

Fine art galleries sell Morrie’s metal sculptures, an art form he took up in his 90s. Then there’s the aforementioned book at 103. Today 108, he’s still blogging strong!

His secret? According to one of his many Los Angeles Times interviews, the key is to stay curious! 

Aithal has self-published six novels! He and Morrie embody “never give up.” That’s the kind of motivation I want to soak up as I plot my next steps for the novel I just finished writing.

Originally from India and now residing in Orange County, California, Aithal generously shared his publishing know-how last week. His book titles and links are India Was OneBeyond The Milky WayReturn to EarthDivided States of America2120The Man From Afghanistan.

“Survival of the Fittest,” by Aithal  

Man to Shopkeeper: Please give me ten guns, 100 bullets + 1 antibiotic azithromycin tablet.

Shopkeeper: Sorry, Sir, we can’t sell you the antibiotic without a prescription…

This may be a joke, but it’s a fact of life in America.

America is no longer a land of opportunity — at least not for all. It seems to have turned into a lawless country held hostage by few. Over time it has desensitized its citizens in many walks of life, the latest being the mass shooting in Texas. It has become a standard playbook for the Right. Send thoughts and prayers, show outrage, blame mental illness, and then wait it out. They know it has worked in the past: Sandy Hook, Parkland, Columbine, and so many more. We have collectively lost our way, and not just our minds. We have become the laughingstock of the world. We no longer are respected…but feared.

How many of us know on February 19 of this year, there was a mass shooting in Portland, Oregon, at Normandale Park that left one dead and five injured. We tend to absorb the news with mild curiosity, thinking, “oh, just one dead. Not a very big deal.” Actually, it is. However, little do we realize that the Right has succeeded in desensitizing us so much that our brains take one death for granted. It shouldn’t be. We must retrain our brains to think that even one human loss is unacceptable. We must not fall for the Right’s trope of ‘mental illness’ excuse. It is offensive to all those who have an actual mental illness. They never think of taking a gun and committing mass murder. So, in conclusion, them saying an individual was mentally deranged is nothing but an excuse. Making a lethal weapon easily accessible to them is not a Second Amendment Right.

Years from now, when the current politicians are dead and gone, the future generation will have to endure their political stances. Slowly but steadily, America will experience a brain drain. The unending supply of the immigrants, who have been infusing vibrant new blood into this country’s soul, will taper down to a trickle. The American dream will turn into an American nightmare.

Think about the rules and regulations for a car. When you want to buy a vehicle, you must have a title and tags. A driver training before you can operate one on the road, a written and a practical test before getting a license, health requirements, and insurance. You can obtain this at DMV, a government body, and not just a car fair. Why can’t it be the same for guns? 90% of Americans want change in the current gun laws. 10% and fifty Republican senators are defying the will of three-hundred million Americans.

And we are proud to call America a leader in democracy.

How old do you plan to be when you quit writing, blogging, or dreaming?…

Celebrate You + Welcome H + Pod 30: Fiona’s 20 Podcast Promo Tips

 

20 Podcast Promotion Tips by Fiona Livingston Happiness Between Tails

20 Podcast Promotion Tips by Fiona Livingston #Podcasting #Publishing #SocialMedia #SelfPromotion Got a podcast or want to start one that you want people to know about? Podcaster/blogger Fiona Livingston, a content and digital marketing specialist, has 20 ideas to promote yours. Share your thoughts, experiences, and questions by recording them on my Anchor by Spotify page — or comment at HappinessBetweenTails.com — or email me. Like what you hear? Buy me a coffee. Time Stamps (where segments begin): HBT introduction Today’s topic and about today’s guest 1:05 20 Podcast Promotion Tips by Fiona Livingston 3:10 My question for you 9:15 HBT outro Links used for the HBT blog post of this episode: Original blog post for this episode at Happiness Between Tails. There you'll find all the full list of links Fiona discusses.. London-based Fiona Livingstonblogs about marketing and podcasting on Medium, and produces The Culture Bar, an arts and culture-related podcast. A little about my novel-in-progress, “Flamenco & the Sitting Cat”. Photos available at the HBT post for this show: Photo of Fiona Livingston Her clever illustration of "eau de marketing.” Artwork for Fiona’s arts and culture podcast, “The Culture Bar.” — This episode is sponsored by · Anchor: The easiest way to make a podcast. https://anchor.fm/app — Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/depe9/message Support this podcast: https://anchor.fm/depe9/support

Click H-E-R-E for my podcast page at AnchorFM. This week’s show is the audio version of the post below this blog post of “20 Podcast Promotion Tips by Fiona Livingston.”

At the Happiness Between Tails podcast page, you’ll also find links to subscribe, hear, and share it via most any platform, from Spotify and Apple Podcasts, to Google Podcasts and Pocket Casts, along with RadioPublic and Castbox and Stitcher and more, plus an RSS feed. Check out the full list of 50+ places.

Photo of da-AL with K-D-doggie.

Photo: K-D-doggie and me celebrating our cerulean SoCal  skies…

Awful news and day-to-day striving are all I think about — why do I non-stop focus on those rather than celebrate any of the good stuff? Are you the same way? If you’re like that too, allow me to start us off, reboot ourselves as it were…

Hurrah! Today marks the airing of my 30th podcast show since experimenting with the WordPress-to-AnchorFM setup for when I publish “Flamenco & the Sitting Cat.” Jamie Foxx, in his book, “Act Like You Got Some Sense: And Other Things My Daughters Taught Me,” (here’s my review of it) mentions a TV show needs 100 episodes to be syndicated. If thats applies at all to podcasts, I’m almost a third of the way through!

Hurrah! Hurrah! Better yet, my brother-in-law, Hakhamanesh, is here! Khashayar and I spent months and months readying our home to get things just right for his move from Iran, and turns out things are working out even better than we anticipated. After decades of filing papers, he’s finally here! To celebrate, we took a nice walk to an outdoor café…

Photo of da-AL, Khashayar, and Hakhamanesh, with coffees at an outdoor cafe.
Welcome Hakhamanesh! (He’s on the far right.)

On that light-hearted note, this one of Infidel753’s blog posts still makes me smile upon re-reading it. Check it out for a different way to consider romance writers, and a new viewpoint for how to wash your cat. You might remember Infidel753 from his guest blog posts here on being vegan and on volunteering to help women needing abortions to cross picket lines.

For anyone who doubts their celebration-worthiness — I’ve been the grateful recipient of many kindnesses from people I know, as well as many I encountered only briefly, virtually or otherwise. As bloggers, podcasters, and readers included, we’ll never fathom all the ways we impact each other, how our gentle deeds ripple into the world.

And another thought on things to celebrate — how many bullets have we dodged that we’ll never know about? Some time ago, while driving home, I stopped at a nearby red light and saw a mega-creepy driver leering at me. Once the light turned green, he followed me for several turns. Just when I was almost home and thinking I should head for a police station, I heard a loud crash behind me. He’d been smashed into while he was turning a corner. It calls to mind all the near misses, the bad things we avoid without knowing.

What can you celebrate personally, big or small?

Norooz + Twinkl + Cats Fable Vid + Pod26: Ashley’s Easier Publishing

Khashayar with me at our Persian New Year haft-seen table.
Khashayar with me at our Persian New Year haft-seen table.

Self-Publishing: It Gets Easier by Ashley L. Peterson Happiness Between Tails

#MentalHealth #Books #Authors #Publishing #SelfPublishing #GuineaPigs Mental health nurse and author Ashley L. Peterson of Mental Health At Home dot org blogs out of Vancouver, Canada, and writes from both a personal perspective as well as that of a medical professional. She’s written a host of books on the subject. Have you considered self-publishing, and what's your experience with publishing and building a platform? Share your thoughts, experiences, and questions by recording them on my Anchor by Spotify page — or comment at HappinessBetweenTails.com — or email me. Like what you hear? Buy me a coffee. Time Stamps (where segments begin): HBT introduction Today’s topic and about today’s guest 1:05 Self-Publishing: It Gets Easier by Ashley L. Peterson 2:00 My question for you 3:30 HBT outro Links used for the HBT blog post of this episode: Here’s the original blog version of this podcast episode. Ashley’s website Photos available at the HBT posts for this show: Ashley and her hard working guinea pigs. Covers of her books. — This episode is sponsored by · Anchor: The easiest way to make a podcast. https://anchor.fm/app — Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/depe9/message Support this podcast: https://anchor.fm/depe9/support

Click H-E-R-E for my podcast page at AnchorFM. This week’s show is the audio version of this blog post of “Self-Publishing It Gets Easier by Ashley L. Peterson.”

At the Happiness Between Tails podcast page, you’ll also find links to subscribe, hear, and share it via most any platform, from Spotify and Apple Podcasts, to Google Podcasts and Pocket Casts, along with RadioPublic and Castbox and Stitcher and more, plus an RSS feed. The full list of 50+ places is H-E-R-E.

Persian New Year partying is a two-week affair, so we’re still in the midst of it! Here’s the haft-seen table that Khashayar arranged. In another video, I explain the history and the items.

More to celebrate: given that I’m writing soon-to-be-published novels, Twinkl (a resource by teachers, for teachers and homeschoolers in early childhood and elementary settings that featured me before) listed me among authors and bloggers on their To Be Read List 2022: Top Book Picks From Authors and Bloggers!

Now for a story with a moral. The lives of Lucy and Mooshie are Grimm-inspired reminders of how smarts are better to have than good looks (more about Mooshie here)

 

What’s your fave book or fable?

Critter Vids + B. Christopher’s Vet Trip + Pod20: A. Renaud’s Inspo

Photo of Blogger/Educator Brendan Christoper and a chinchilla.
Blogger/Educator Brendan Christoper and a friend.

Novelist Alice Renaud’s COVID-19 Inspo: Animals + Publishing Happiness Between Tails

#Authors #Writing #Publishing #Creativity #Covid-19 #Animals Staying home, as well as animals, inspire fantasy romance author Alice Renaud, a Londoner. Here she also details how she published her award-winning books! How's your creativity going? Share your thoughts, and questions. Record them on my Anchor by Spotify page — or comment at HappinessBetweenTails.com — or email me. Like what you hear? Buy me a coffee. Time Stamps (where segments begin): HBT introduction Today’s topic and about today’s guest 1:05 Alice Renaud discusses what inspires her writing My question for you HBT outro Links used for the HBT blog post of this episode: Fantasy romance author Alice Renaud's website that tells about her and her books. Original blog post for this episode. About “Flamenco & the Sitting Cat," my novel. Posts regarding my bout with COVID are here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here. Photos at the HBT blog post for this show: Portrait of Alice Renaud. Alice’s photo of an amazing red butterfly. Tabitha, Alice’s aunt’s tabby, staring at the neighbour’s feline. Cover of Alice’s “Mermaids Marry in Green; a Sea of Love Novel.” — This episode is sponsored by · Anchor: The easiest way to make a podcast. https://anchor.fm/app — Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/depe9/message Support this podcast: https://anchor.fm/depe9/support

Click H-E-R-E for my new podcast page at AnchorFM. This week’s episode is the audio version of “Novelist Alice Renaud’s COVID-19 Inspo: Animals + Publishing” that you can read the text version of H-E-R-E.

At the Happiness Between Tails podcast page, you’ll also find links to subscribe, hear, and share it via most any platform, from Spotify and Apple Podcasts, to Google Podcasts and Pocket Casts, along with RadioPublic and Castbox and Stitcher and more, plus an RSS feed. The full list of 50+ places is H-E-R-E.

It started with witnessing utter joy between an orangutan and a hound dog. Youtube videos are pleasant distractions when one is slogging through writing a novel, no? (A bit about the ones I’m working on H-E-R-E.) As you can guess, my fave videos involve dogs, preferably ones that look like mine. Dogs are absolute experts at befriending anything and everything…

When I mentioned the video to a friend, she replied, “Me too! I love looking at interspecies romances.”

Is that what they’re called? Now short breaks turned into hour-long procrastinations… add in baby goats and owls and… and so it goes with YouTube… That’s why I’m sharing just one more with you — so as not to impose on your busy day, it’s got five not-so-romantic romances rolled into ten minutes…

Cute, weird, adorable, scary… what a diverse world of creatures we inhabit! Here to show us in real-life terms about the benefits of human-animal relations is Brendan Christoper, a blogger (links to his work h-e-r-e) out of Derbyshire, United Kingdom. Besides writing, he’s a hands-on educator who introduces his wild menagerie to people of all ages at events, parties, and classes. Read on for how even his pets aren’t thrilled with veterinarian visits…

Photo of Forest, a black and white cat resting on a cat scratching tree, by Bren from Wild4animals.
Forest by Bren from Wild4animals.

I’m Taking My Pet to See the Vet (Wish me luck!) by Brendan Christopher

Forest, my cat, is suspicious, so he slinks behind the sofa. Then, spying from a safe distance, he spots me fumbling with a pet carrier. There’s no turning back now.

As I creep towards Forest, I pretend to act casually. But, in one swift move, I scoop him up, place him into the box and attempt to shut the lid.

Somehow, he always manages to leave at least one paw on the outside. When I push that one in, another pops out like a jack-in-the-box. Eventually, we’re ready, and that’s when the drama begins.

To be fair, Forest is usually compliant when going to the vets — well, except for a couple of issues. One involves the journey.

He hates the motion of travel and lets out the most pathetic meow he can muster. This noise sounds like a baby in distress and is designed to wreck my emotions.

Now I’m racked with guilt as I drive. But mercifully, the journey’s short, so I’m spared any lasting trauma.

On arrival, he’s usually calmed down. However, as we cross the car park, the howling starts again because he doesn’t like the instability.

Logo for Brendan Christoper's animal education work, Wild 4 Animals, an acronym for Welfare, Intrigue, Learning, and Dignity.
Brendan Christoper’s animal education logo.

There’s just another man with a cat in the waiting area and me. I sit opposite, but the two cat boxes happen to face each other. So, naturally, we humans start complimenting each other’s pets.     

Meanwhile, our cats hold a growling contest for no apparent reason. They clearly hate each other even though they’ve just met. I think to myself, ‘it’s a good job they’re on neutral ground and not meeting in a back alley’. (Or perhaps they have – who knows with cats?)

Anyway, as Forest prowls around like a big caged cat, we’re summoned. I place the box on the vet’s table and carefully unleash my feline.

Instantly, Forest makes himself look massive by fluffing up his fur and thickening his tail. However, he fails to intimidate the vet — on the contrary, she finds him cute.

All goes well until its temperature time. At this point, the vet dares to hold his bushy tail whilst inserting a thermometer. Thankfully, Forest is a gentle soul, so he tends not to bite.

Once the ordeal’s over, the vet declares him a ‘good boy’, and I beam like a proud parent.

On the way out, he looks at me as if to say, ‘And I thought I could trust you. Typical human.’

Finally arriving home, I open the carrier, and Forest shoots out. He sniffs the box, glares at me and flicks his tail in disgust — that means I’ve been snubbed. However, as soon as I stroke him (and open a packet of food), he’s back to his loving, purring self.

Well, almost… he gives me that look as if to say, ‘you’re forgiven this time, but NEVER trap me in that cat snare again!’

The only problem is I’m taking Forest for another check-up in six months. Even though I know it’s for his own good, I doubt he appreciates my efforts.

Do you have a favorite animal?

Writing/Cleaning + Miss Bekah’s Growth/Change + Pod19: Covid + Books

Blogger/writer Rebekah of MissBekah Productions.
Blogger/writer Rebekah of MissBekah Productions.

Book Reviews + Writing + COVID-19: I’m Better Happiness Between Tails

#Books #Reading #Writing #COVID-19 #Authors #Reviews Getting sick with COVID-19, the quarantines, and my scaled down lifestyle that resulted have lent me more time to read and write book reviews. In this episode, I critique: 1. Earthlings: A Novel by Sayaka Murata. 2. Friendshipping: The Art of Finding Friends, Being Friends, and Keeping Friends by Jenn Bane and Trin Garritano. 3. The Listening Path: the Creative Art of Attention by Julia Cameron. 4. The 90-Day Novel: Unlock the Story Within by Alan Watt. What are you reading or writing lately? Share your thoughts, experiences, and questions by recording them on my Anchor by Spotify page — or comment at HappinessBetweenTails.com — or email me. Like what you hear? Buy me a coffee. Time Stamps (where segments begin): HBT introduction Today’s topic 1:05 My question for you HBT outro Links used for the HBT blog post of this episode: – Original blog post for this episode at Happiness Between Tails. Sayaka Murata says this is her other-worldly response to a Japanese health minister's announcement. Here's his statement from 2007. Photos available at the HBT post for this show: Covers for each of the books I review here. — This episode is sponsored by · Anchor: The easiest way to make a podcast. https://anchor.fm/app — Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/depe9/message Support this podcast: https://anchor.fm/depe9/support

Click H-E-R-E for my new podcast page at AnchorFM. This week’s episode is the audio version of “COVID, Friendship, Writing, and Books: We’re better” that you can read the text version of H-E-R-E.

At the Happiness Between Tails podcast page, you’ll also find links to subscribe, hear, and share it via most any platform, from Spotify and Apple Podcasts, to Google Podcasts and Pocket Casts, along with RadioPublic and Castbox and Stitcher and more, plus an RSS feed. The full list of 50+ places is at LinkTree.

This week, I’ve been doing some writing, but not as much as I’d like — for quite a happy reason! My husband and I are getting ready for an extended visit from my brother-in-law.

First, though, regarding the podcast at the start of this post, over the time that’s gone by since I originally published the blog version of it

  1. Covid: Somehow it can damage the brain, and in my case, how it connects to my senses. I have yet to fully taste and smell things properly. For instance, citrus fruit doesn’t taste like anything and it doesn’t smell “citrusy.” The smell of onions cooking is now horrendous, yet fortunately they’re ok to eat. It’s quite upsetting. If I think about it too much, I want to jump out of my skin, but I wanted you to know in case anyone around you thinks Covid is no big deal.

    Photo of K-D doggie still in bed.
    K-D-doggie decided to snuggle in bed a bit longer this morning. Nonetheless, she asked to say hi and to remind you to take extra care. These wintery days can physically and emotionally challenge us (and pets) worse than the rest of the year.
  2. Books: Last night I finished another fascinating one. Though officially a kids’ book, one of my fave authors, Ann Patchett (who also owns a bookstore), categorizes it more accurately as sui generis, meaning one of a kind/uncategorizable.

My review of it for Amazon and Goodreads: “The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane,” by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by Bagram Imatoulline: “Is this for kids? I don’t have any, so I don’t know. What I do know is that it’s a great book for sensitive thoughtful adults. The kind who know that truly opening one’s heart is to risk getting hurt, yet there’s no better way to live. Bagram Ibatoulline’s illustrations are as gorgeous and deep as Kate DiCamillo’s writing. Note for those who need to know before reading: this book includes violence.”

Front cover of the book, “The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane,” by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by Bagram Imatoulline.

Back to why I haven’t written a lot. In addition to the good news above, as of the last post to you, I was sure I was ever so close to finished writing my first novel. I have to remind myself that actually I am, though further than I wish. Every time I send the final handful of chapters in for review, they still need something more… more depth, more smoothness, more, more, more. Argh!!! Not taking criticism personally and buoying myself that I can indeed improve on what I’ve written is not easy.

Better to discuss the cheery part of not writing — making room and cleaning up the house for my husband’s brother is a great excuse to organize our stuff better and to get rid of things we haven’t used in ages. Whatever we didn’t donate to Salvation Army, I listed for sale on Ebay and Craigslist. That involved sorting, cleaning, photographing, measuring, researching similar items, writing copy, and so on.

Did you know Ebay lets you advertise things for pick up only? Moreover, Craiglist lets you run ads in other languages, so I posted listings in Spanish as well as in English. Now we wait to see if anyone wants to buy them…

Working hard on things can get rather grim. As a result, these past couple of mornings we’ve started our days laughing as we eat breakfast! Technically, we’re doing “Laughter Yoga.” Watching others laugh, it’s impossible to not at least smile. The founder is a medical doctor who treks the world teaching the serious need for laughter. Amid his numerous Youtube examples, this is especially rib-tickling…

And now for today’s guest. Miss Bekah runs two blogs from her home in the United States, The Thoughts that Bind and Eight Years In, to help readers find their best selves and to follow a healthy vegan lifestyle. She also has videos on Youtube of her music

Photo of duck footprints on a snowy clearing, a picnic table in the background
Photo by Rebekah of MissBekah Productions: She uses photography to express sentiments. This one represents how, when one goes different directions in life, the dividends show up later.

Personal Growth and Change by Rebekah of MissBekah Productions

For ages, I’ve been obsessed with the idea of personal growth and change. And I think a lot of us can relate. Whether it’s that we want to finally get in shape, nix a bad habit, overcome an addiction, face our fears or just become a better person in general, we’re tasked with unraveling this question: how do we spearhead our own personal change? 

Now, I have chased bits and pieces of this idea for years. Whether I was engrossed in a self help book or going to therapy many times a week trying to cope and combat the symptoms of an unrested mind, it’s always been (at least) on the back burner. How do I change? How do I create a better life for myself and a better self for my life? And while I got results here and there for specific things, I don’t think I grew to understand the process until quite recently. I did, however, find myself gathering lessons from every turn of the road in order to synthesize this realization. 

Act before you’re ready

Although I wanted to improve myself for many years before, I think my first real success at doing so was my foray into addiction recovery, which also coincided with me getting therapy for the first time. 

In recovery, I learned that sometimes, you just have to do the things that you’re scared of. Even if you’re not ready. Because as I often say, you probably already know what you need to do in order to live the life you’ve always wanted. In many cases, it’s just a matter of putting it into action. 

Only you can do this

And as I was recovering and taking actions I was uncomfortable with at the time in order to start being healthy again, I realized just how alone I was in the responsibility of recovery. I had some incredibly supportive people on my treatment team. Talented individuals with bright ideas and big hearts who all wanted me to succeed. But ultimately, it didn’t matter what they thought or how much help they could give me. It had to be me who took it. 

And this whole idea of acting before you’re ready really plays into that, I think. Because if someone gives you a task you’re not ready for, all they can really do is present it to you. They can’t force you to do it, and if they manipulate you into doing it, you grow to resent and mistrust them. So all in all, it really has to be you pushing this engine of growth and change. 

Sometimes you need a rest

After the bulk of my recovery, I went into a sort of hibernation mode of sorts. I was uninterested in doing any extra sorts of action to improve myself. And as much as I think that state can be a downer, the more I look back on it, the more I conclude that it is what I needed at the time. 

Once you’ve had a big shift in who you are and how you manage your life, you need to be able to sit back and relax, even if it’s just for a little while. You need to rest to repair your resolve. Something that hardly anyone talks about is that even when you see the positive results of your efforts, you still need to sit back and relax for a brief period. You can’t always just keep chugging on momentum and adrenaline—that’s not sustainable. 

But I think another reason it’s good to take a period of rest after a big change is because it’s good to acclimate yourself to your new life and way of being. As creatures of habit, these things affect us more than we realize. Not only that, but if you want this change to be sustainable, then you need to learn how to live your life within the confines of it, whatever that may entail. 

Learn to guide your thoughts

Following this period of rest, I was wary of this action-oriented approach, for many reasons. For one, I realized that all of the actions that I had taken unconsciously out of my distress lead me down a very destructive path to begin with. And there were many thoughts and feelings and patterns to detangle behind the more obvious-presenting self-destructive habits. 

I wanted to understand where these things had come from. So I dove into self-reflection. This was a skill I had been introduced to through therapy, and was learning to replace for my usual rumination. I knew that I couldn’t control the life circumstances that I was given. But I could learn to control my brain, and how I used it. That’s all any of us can do when it comes to altering our mood and mindset. 

And so I set out to do just that—I learned about my brain, my patterns, my limiting beliefs. The more I learned, the more I wanted to share that knowledge of well-being with other people that might be able to benefit. And so I started a website called the Thoughts that Bind.

Don’t get wrapped up in perfection 

I think some point after starting the Thoughts that Bind, I had this sort of mistaken idea that at some point I would be fully happy and healed and have no more to learn or put on the site. And yet I was also concerned about, well, not being there yet. 

But after honing my mindset and perspective for years now, I’m starting to realize that there’s no end in sight. There will always be some new way I can learn and grow, something that I can work on to improve. 

It’s possible that the old me who was just starting out on the website would be a little upset to realize that, but for me, that’s a good thing! Never being able to get it done means I never have to be concerned about not completing my own self-actualization. I never have to think “wow I’m behind, I’m not fully healed and a master of my thought, word and deed.” I’ll never be completely there. It’s okay. 

It also means that as long as I live, there’s never a reason to be sitting in stagnation. There will always be something new to explore and blossom into, no matter how healed, grown or “expert” I become. I can use my knowledge, wisdom and skills to move to a forward that will always be there in front of me. That’s exciting!

Use your new perspective

I think I stayed that way, mindset oriented, for a long time. I suppose I figured my action-oriented days were done, since I was recovered now, after all. But something was brewing inside me. 

I think I knew, somewhere in the back of my mind that you need to take action, sooner or later. I had seen how much it had changed me back in my therapy and recovery days, and the more I looked, the more I saw it in the world. 

And so, I dipped my toe back into action and I realized that more than anything, it was the next natural step for me and my personal journey. I started taking my thoughts and realizations one step further and pushed myself. I thought, “this is a good idea. Now, how can I put this into action?” And I began slowly but surely, improving myself once again. I even started another website, Eight Years In, all about the actions we can take to live a more ethical life that leaves a good impact on the world around us. 

Most of all, I realized that any new perspective, when it’s a good one, is made better and more concrete when it’s followed by actions to back it up. I wouldn’t say that I was necessarily a full-on hypocrite before this realization. But I definitely didn’t push myself to consistently follow through. It was more like when I remembered, when I felt like it. And when I added that recommitment to action, based on reflection, things really started moving in my life. 

The balance

It was right around the time of recommitting myself to inspired action that I realized how much of a balance it all is. When it comes to self-improvement, I think there are two camps. The inside-out camp (thoughts oriented) or the outside-in camp (which is action oriented). I thought over the years, mistakenly, that I ought to pick one to agree with and reside in but now I realize that I really can’t and don’t want to. 

The recipe to personal development has two ingredients, mental and external. You need the right mindset to guide you in the direction you want to go, but you can’t expect that mindset to take care of it all for you. You need action and commitment to adhere you to the now reality and keep you progressing instead of pontificating. 

In the beginning, sometimes the best thing to do is look at what little information you have and just start. You’ll learn along the way what works and what doesn’t, especially if you prioritize the mental and emotional aspects of personal change and growth. 

You need action. And you need to change your mental patterns. These two things feed off of each other in a wonderfully symbiotic way. And when you’ve got them in balance, you’re golden. 

Do what works for you

And I think the last thing we all need to know about personal development is that it’s just that—personal. What worked for me isn’t going to work for you. And that’s okay! What’s important is getting to know yourself. Once you know yourself and what works for you, start applying those principles instead of what some random person on the internet (or wherever else you’re getting your information) has to say. Because ultimately, only you can know who you are, and what you want to be. 

Other people’s ideas are great to use as a jumping off point for you and your life. Hey, you might even use their ways of doing things. But that’s if it works for you. You are an intricate and unique individual, and nobody can perfectly tailor their advice to you and your situation, even if they know you (which many don’t). Learn to respect and embrace your uniqueness, by getting to know yourself and then using that knowledge to strategize your forward movement. 

I believe in you. I know you can grow and change. And I’m so excited to see who you become in a week, month, or year’s time. You can do this!

Got something great started?

Writing Collab by P. Springer + Pod6: COVID + P. Wight Flash Memoir

Photo of da-AL with a fluffy dog who isn't K-D-doggie.
Shhh… don’t tell my K-D-doggie that I spent a quality afternoon with this friend, Charlie.

Incredible India by Niks Happiness Between Tails

  1. Incredible India by Niks
  2. Do Better by Shira Destinie Jones

Click H-E-R-E & you’ll find my brand new podcast page! It’s on AnchorFM, where the most recent show is the audio rendition of my blog post (the blog version is h-e-r-e), “COVID Hair and Writing Life by da-AL + Pamela S. Wight’s Flash Memoir.”

At the Happiness Between Tails podcast page, you’ll also find links to subscribe, hear, and share it via most any platform, from Spotifyand Apple Podcasts, to Google Podcasts and Pocket Casts, along with RadioPublic and Castbox and Stitcher and more, plus an RSS feed. The full list of 50+ places is H-E-R-E.

Connection… collaboration… We affect each other, for good and bad. Please know that your visits, likes, and comments go far in helping me keep writing my novels (about them h-e-r-e) and the rest of my creative endeavors.

Connection includes your postcards! Rebekah, whose mom, Pat, wrote of her challenge of getting into the Marines h-e-r-e, recently completed the very difficult “The Crucible” culmination of boot camp! Moreover, she didn’t incur further injuries!! Yay!!! Pat says Rebekah, who still isn’t allowed to communicate with the greater outside world, is extremely grateful for your support. Rebekah will soon be in town, so I can’t wait to see her 🙂

This week I’ve slogged more through learning to start a podcast, hence I only got a little novel writing done. With luck, the Happiness Between Tails podcast will appear on least 50 directories (already included are Apple and Spotify). Each directory asked for my RSS feed, bios of varying character counts, different sizes of graphics, email verifications, etc. Halfway through submitting stuff, I discovered I was copying and pasting typos and repeated sentences. Oof! There was even junk to scour from this site’s “Welcome” page.

Next week, my ToDo List includes sorting through the rubble. Meantime, I also found stuff to fix in last week’s podcast version of “Khashayar’s Healthier Carrot Cake Recipe.”

Sheesh, how do people do all this and also promote?! I’m gonna say it now: Twitter, I hate you. I’m forever feeling like I’m hash-tagging you and sharing you and retweeting you all wrong, wrong, wrong. Most people who request to friend me aren’t “friend material” anyway. And Instagram, why, oh why, don’t you make yourself easier to use?! Life would be so much easier if you’d let me share to you from WordPress and from my desktop computer. (Oh, wait, I take back the second half of my rant about Insta thanks to Ashley of Mental Health at Home. She generously commented below that there’s a new way to upload to Instagram from desktops, so here’s a how-to I found on that.)

Today I got my first follower whose link is  a Snapchat. Ms. Sexy Snapchat, I’m not falling into your minefield of clicking on your sleezy-from-a-mile-away link, although I don’t mind that you increase my “followers count.”

Add in “life stuff,” and I wasn’t getting this week’s blog post written until the goddesses came through via Pete Springer. He’s contributed the immensely heartening post you’ll read further down!

Here’s a brief intro to author/blogger Pete Springer. After retiring from decades of teaching second to sixth graders, he published a book for future teachers called They Call Me Mom. He explains, “Every elementary teacher gets the title reference because kids are forever calling the teacher mom. Even though it was said unintentionally, I always took it as a beautiful compliment being compared to a mother.”

Now he’s finished his first middle-grade story, Second Chance Summer, which he’s trying to find a publisher and agent for. Thanks, Pete, for your wise and inspiriting words that follow…

Author Pete Springer.
Author Pete Springer.

The Importance of Collaboration in Writing: 6 Steps by Pete Springer

I’ve reached the age (62) where another birthday isn’t much cause for celebration. On the other hand, I’m still here, or as my mother-in-law used to say, “It’s better than the alternative.” One perk of being older is I’ve had a lifetime of experiences. I want to think I’ve learned a few things over that time. One of those beliefs is that it’s much better to try and fail than not to play the game.

I wish I could say that I’ve always been this fearless guy—the type who wasn’t afraid to try something new and equally comfortable in public speaking situations. The reality is I used to play it safe and took the easy way out. Look where that got me! Instead, now I put on my big boy pants every morning and go after what I want. I like this version of myself better than the old one. I love it when people say things like, “How do you do that?” or “I wish I had your nerve.” 

I have a couple of advantages over most others. I was an elementary school teacher for 31 years, so I got used to speaking to other people and doing things in front of my students that most people would never consider. I’m the one who wore his tidy whities over his dress pants on Backwards Day, the knucklehead who dressed up as one of the Blues Brothers while singing and doing cartwheels on stage, and the crazy guy who took his entire class and their families on biking fields trip across town.

It’s not like I’ve got one foot in the grave, but the hourglass has turned. I don’t have time to dilly around working up my nerve. That’s why I encourage anyone reading my piece to find your inner courage and go after your writing goals. Don’t wait until retirement to start that book you want to write. Get out there and sign up for that writing class you’ve always wanted to take. Above all, don’t be afraid to share your writing with other people because you worry that it doesn’t measure up. We all have to start somewhere, and that time is now.

I’ve done a lot of things to further my writing in the last few years. I’ve taken classes, read many books about writing, joined SCBWI (Society of Children’s Writers and Illustrators), started a blog, and networked with other writers. I didn’t consider myself a writer before, but now I do. Seldom does a day go by when I’m not writing something. I take my craft seriously because there is no substitute for practice if we want to improve. While these things have helped me develop better writing skills, the most crucial step was finding a critique group.

Being a retired teacher, I’ve always believed in the collaborative process. Getting regular feedback from others is a critical step in any endeavor. Anyone who has been part of a team understands that we get extra juice from our teammates and don’t want to let them down.

The most critical ingredient in a critique group is trust. I understand that when my partners make recommendations and suggestions, they’re offering their opinions because they’re trying to help. As writers, we need to be open to constructive criticism. Sometimes things that I don’t see right away become apparent when someone else points them out. I’d estimate that 90% of the time, I agree with my critique partners’ recommendations. 

Of course, sometimes there are differences of opinion. We don’t get into prolonged debates trying to prove that we’re right. Getting feedback from others doesn’t mean we always have to agree with it, but we should try to listen and understand their point of view.

Ultimately, writers must be happy with the words they choose. If someone makes a point that I differ on, I either respectfully disagree or don’t say anything and write what my heart tells me is the better choice. When my editor made recommendations and changes, I listened to these thoughtfully. She was usually right, and I trusted her judgment in most situations. On the rare occasion when I didn’t, I explained my reasoning and went with what I believed was better. Working with an editor should be a give-and-take process.

Every critique group must find a process that works for them. Because most of the people in our group are retired, we’re able to meet nearly every week for four hours. Regular feedback is critical as a story develops. I’m sharing our process, knowing that others may have formats that work better for them:

Step 1: We do a brief check-in where each member shares what has been going on in their life.

Step 2: We hold a one-minute meditation to free ourselves from outside distractions and get our minds focused on the task at hand.

Step 3: We have a regular order, so we always know who the first person to share will be. Whoever comes first after the last person who read the previous week begins. They give a brief thirty-second reminder of what was happening in their story and then pass out the new chapter to each of us. We have a limit of up to ten pages per week for each member.

Step 4: Everyone reads the paper silently and makes written notes on the draft. After everyone finishes, we share our thoughts. One of the most crucial parts of the process is that the writer may not immediately respond to any feedback. This part is vital because it forces the writer to listen to each comment critically rather than act defensively. 

Step 5:  After everyone has commented on the paper, we move into the period called “Open Discussion.” At this point, the writer may react to any feedback. Sometimes thoughts are briefly debated, but everyone understands that the writer may accept or reject the suggestions.

Step 6: We continue this format throughout the meeting. If we don’t get to someone by the end of the session, that person has the choice of whether they would like their chapter to be homework or not. Those writers who haven’t had their chapter read will go first at next week’s meeting.

I sat in one week with another group, and the group dynamics felt much different. The one person I knew from that group couldn’t attend that day, so I worked with strangers. Their format was completely different; that threw me off. Each writer read their paper aloud, and the others were making notes on their papers simultaneously. They were in the middle of stories, characters, and plots I was unfamiliar with, and I was pretty much lost. I also found it challenging to write notes while listening to the story at the same time. By the end of the meeting, I knew it wasn’t a good fit, but I didn’t have any regrets about trying.

One final area that I want to address is that of having friends read your work. I did that with my first and second books, but I’ve learned this creates difficult situations. I had friends who told me they were dying to read my story. After I gave them a copy, I didn’t hear back from some for months. I don’t want to make it sound like this was the norm because many friends responded quickly with helpful comments. When I heard nothing, it created some confusion. Did they read it? Maybe they thought it wasn’t good and didn’t want to say anything. Perhaps they were too busy and forgot all about it. I tried to keep the process moving forward, but I also didn’t want to be a pest.

Having experienced this a few times, I was left wondering what to do. If I hadn’t heard anything for several weeks, I reached out again (once) and asked if they had a chance to get to it. A few times, I got the “I forgot all about it” response or “I’ve been super busy, but I’ll get to it soon” answer. I understand that those things can happen, but I’m the type of person who follows through when I make a promise. Knowing how uncomfortable and awkward this scenario felt, I’m no longer putting my friends in that position. Perhaps they didn’t know what they were signing up for when they volunteered. From now on, I will rely on my critique group, fellow writers, and other professionals in the industry. 

While writing is primarily a solitary pursuit, all writers should periodically get feedback. I am the least experienced writer in my group, but I didn’t let that intimidate me. The others made me feel like a valued member right away. I love the camaraderie of working with others, but what I like best is seeing my improvement as a writer. 

I’ve heard of critique groups that function online with Zoom. I can see how that could work. Others don’t meet face-to-face, and instead, people respond by email. I prefer meeting in person, but this method might work better for people who are still working. If we’re serious about improving as writers, then working with a group of equally committed people is an essential step in the process.

Do you find collaborating with other writers helpful?…

Tango Videos + C.Hall audiobook + Pod 5 Healthy Carrot Cake

Screenshot from video of Khashayar and da-AL dancing Argentine Tango, un-choreographed.
Screenshot from video of Khashayar and da-AL dancing Argentine Tango, un-choreographed.

Carrot Delight Cake: a Healthier Recipe by Khashayar Happiness Between Tails

Check out my podcast! It’s hosted by AnchorFM. There you’ll find the audio version of “Our COVID + Carrot Delight Cake Healthier Recipe by Khashayar.” The Anchor.fm page also features links to subscribe, hear, and share shows via most any platform, from Spotifyand Apple Podcasts, to Google Podcasts and Pocket Casts, along with RadioPublic and Castbox and Stitcher and more, plus an RSS feed. Here’s the full list of 50+ places.

Note: Check out the audio/podcast version of Chris Hall’s guest blog post that follows below.

This week I had time to work on my novels. Yay! I’m also happy to report that my husband and I danced. The Covid quarantine put our tanging on hold. As much as we missed it, we were even more eager to see our dancing friends at last. Pre-Covid, a number of fellow students gathered several times a year for potluck and dance ranging from belly and flamenco, to tango and folk.

Good news regarding my learning to podcast: since the audio version of author/blogger Judith Barrow’s guest blog post about how she got published aired recently, I used Headliner to produce a full-length video version of it.

Khashayar and I performed two tangos for our friends last weekend. To be safe, the event was outdoors and only included friends who were vaccinated. Over the Covid interim, my hair had grown so long that during rehearsal, it got stuck in his armpit. The morning of the show, I whacked 4” of it off. When we performed for real, I was so out of shape and unaccustomed to wearing heels that my calves were cramping. All the same, the whole night was truly heartwarming and fun!

We began with a classic tango, un-choreographed as is the tradition for authentic Argentine tango…

Later we performed a milonga style Argentine tango, also not pre-choreographed, so as to adhere to convention… 

Back to the subject of books — do you listen to audiobooks? I’m obsessed with them. It’s amazing how quickly moments of listening during cooking, washing dishes, sweeping, driving, exercising, brushing my teeth, and walking my dog add up to a whole book!

Author/blogger Chris Hall, who has guested here before, just produced an audiobook! She calls herself a compulsive story-teller, a cat slave, and a hen keeper who hales from England and lives in South Africa with her artist husband. Lately she’s finishing the sequel to her novel, “Song of the Sea Goddess.” Visit her blog to read her flash fiction and poems.

In her recounting of the process she used to convert her novel into an audiobook, she includes helpful links, as well as where to hear a sample of it…

Graphic describing how "Song of the Sea Goddess" is available as an audiobook.

“The Rise of the Audiobook” by Chris Hall

Audiobooks are becoming more mainstream, most growth coming from people using technology to find more time in their day to consume more books”.
Chris Lynch, Simon & Schuster Audio.

Audiobooks have been around for almost a century in one form or another, although it was only in the 1990s that the advent of digitized recording technology saw audiobooks take off. They’re a boon for people with visual impairments and those who have difficulty with holding a book or e-reader. Or those who don’t get on with processing the written word but still love stories. And of course, they’re great for busy people who like to multi-task, all those artists and crafters, bakers, cooks and wielders of needles I know! From my hairdresser to my podiatrist, I’ve found people who love to listen to audiobooks.

There is also the opportunity to reach a brand new, younger audience. The ‘Podcast Generation’, the 18-24 year age group, are increasingly listening to audiobooks, and these are not a traditional book buying group. Plugged into their smartphones, they consume their stories on the go.

Increasingly aware of the appetite for creating audio offerings amongst some of the folk I know here on WP, where more people are converting their posts to podcasts, producing their own podcasts, and generally getting to grips with ‘all things audio’, I decided to dip my toe in the water and make an audiobook.

But which of my novels to choose?…

I decided on my most recently published novel, Song of the Sea Goddess. It’s the first book I’ve written set in South Africa, my adopted country, where in my experience, people are less wedded to the written word, but love their listening devices. It’s a book that I hope will appeal to both a local and a global audience.

Song of the Sea Goddess combines fantasy and magical realism, and contains elements of an eco-thriller. Key themes include man’s avarice and arrogance, and the human threat to the environment and to earth’s creatures (both real and imaginary). Written not long after Cape Town almost ran out of drinking water a couple of years ago, it also touches on the thirst for water experienced in many parts of Africa.

But it’s not all gloom and doom. My novel is populated by a small cast of quirky and humorous characters who reside in the charming little coastal town that I created for them, an imaginary place on the beautiful west coast of South Africa. They’re a great bunch to get to know, and very relatable to a local audience.

Author Chris Hall.
Author Chris Hall.

So, to the process of producing an audiobook…

A little online research led me to make my first decision: I had to find a good narrator. Even if I had that magical ‘voice for radio’, it’s a mammoth task to read and record an entire novel. Nor do I have the equipment or the skill to make a professional digital recording, and I can only imagine how many times I’d need to stop to silence my very opinionated cat! But, by great good fortune one of the teachers with whom my husband used to work is also a voice actor. I asked him to drop her an email.

Voice actor Terry Lloyd Roberts was happy to take on the project and in turn, she introduced me to Devon Martindale, Director at Audioshelf, a South African company dedicated to the production of audiobooks. From then on making the recording was easy. All I had to do was send them the manuscript and they’d do the rest. Over the next month, I received a chunk of chapters to review each week. Listening to the recordings made by Devon and golden-voiced Terry was an absolute delight. It couldn’t have been easier. You can listen to a sample here.

Armed with the finished recording, finding a platform on which to publish was the next step. Being in South Africa closes off many avenues (don’t get me started) and I was disappointed to find that ‘big names’ like ACX were ‘not available in your geographical location’. However, Devon came to the rescue and recommended Authors Republic who offer audiobook publishing and distribution worldwide.

After signing up, completing a US tax form, and adding my paypal account details, all that remained was to fill in the book details, load up the cover pic and upload the audio files, which had been perfectly prepared by Audioshelf, then finally set the price, although the distributors have the right to amend this to fit their pricing profile.

Just two weeks later, my audiobook was available via all the major audiobook retailers, including the ones unavailable to me in South Africa, like Audible and Chirp. It was also published on Amazon, alongside the e-book and paperback, which I’d been unable to do directly.

Bottom line: cost vs. sales…

Because of the time involved to read and record an entire novel, it is a relatively costly enterprise to engage a narrator and arrange the studio time. It cost me equivalent to a nice holiday! This of course, would have been drastically reduced if I’d done my own recording. 

Sales are paid quarterly by Authors Republic and I’m pleased to report that I earned more royalties from the audiobook than the combined paperback and e-book sales in these first three months since publication. It might take a while (if ever) to make my money back, but it does give me the opportunity to reach a new audience. Having people enjoy what I’ve written is reward enough for me.

Would I do it again?…

Oh yes! Terry and Devon are about to start recording my adventure story for all ages, Following the Green Rabbit, which will be out in time for the coming festive holiday.

Do you listen to audiobooks? And is there something you’ve gotten rusty at due to Covid?